What is Asthma

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the airways that narrows the passage of air. Typically, it is characterised by difficulty in breathing. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and cough1.

Asthma is by its nature a variable disease that, for every affected individual, its severity can fluctuate both daily and seasonally.

Although asthma cannot be cured, it can be treated effectively. Research shows that with proper treatment, nearly all asthma patients can achieve and maintain good asthma control, enabling them to live full and active lives.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Asthma is a common disease with repeated attacks of airway narrowing causing difficulty breathing and wheezing, sometimes accompanied by coughing. People with asthma have inflamed airways and can be sensitive to certain substances. Although, asthma is usually diagnosed based on typical symptoms, this alone can sometimes be inaccurate.

Asthma Tests

A lung function test is frequently done to measure the airflow out of your lungs. Other lung function tests detect the inflammation in the airways or the sensitiveness of the airways. Occasionally, a skin prick test can also help you look for common substances which may trigger your attacks.

1. Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention, Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA). Updated 2008. Available from: http://www.ginasthma.org

Managing Asthma

Different people have different triggers, common ones include:

  • Indoor allergens (for example, house dust mites, pollution and pet dander)
  • Outdoor allergens (such as pollens and molds)
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Haze
  • Chemical irritants ( eg perfume, at work)
  • Cold air and drinks
  • Some medications (e.g. certain painkillers such as Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication)
  • Citrus fruits (eg orange, lemons)
  • Exercise

  • Inhalers
    A preventer inhaler may be given to be used daily to prevent attacks, together with a rescue inhaler to be used only during attacks.
  • Non-inhaler medications
    These are not first line medication and include tablets to reduce the inflammation in your airways or short courses of steroids during asthma flares.
  • Stay away from the risk factor which can cause you to have an asthma attack or worsening of symptoms
  • Record your symptoms and frequency to monitor how well you are controlling your asthma
  • Always have your quick relieve medication readily accessible in case of a sudden attack

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After a hospitalisation for Asthma

Have a written asthma action plan and follow up with your doctor regularly. As those who were previously hospitalised are more prone to serious attacks, remember to take your preventer inhaler daily to avoid triggers.

If your asthma symptoms do not go away with your rescue inhaler, or your symptoms are very severe, seek medical help immediately.

Living with Asthma

In Singapore, about 5% of adults and 20% of children have asthma.

Singapore is ranked as an intermediate risk country for asthma prevalence but a high-risk country for asthma deaths, based on the Global Initiative for Asthma's (GINA) global burden of disease report.

Asthma mortality in the Singapore population aged 5 to 34 years has fallen.

Decline in asthma deaths is linked to the rising use of inhaled steroids. The main factor for fatal and near fatal asthma in Singapore appears to be suboptimal treatment.

Of asthma patients admitted into ICU with fatal or near fatal disease, 67% had "untreated asthma"

  • Mostly young asthmatics, who sought treatment for acute attacks at either the GPs or A&E, were not receiving regular reviews.
  • None were on appropriate preventer medication.
  • Preference for cheap oral medication persist. Oral medication is usually needed only during asthma symptom flare-ups.
  • However, a growing number of patients who continue to take large doses of oral steroids several times per year for acute asthma.
  • In addition, this group of patients have no proper preventive (inhaler) strategy in between Singapore

Asthma and Allergic RhinitisRead more

Asthma and Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis may contribute to further inflammation along the airways. If you find yourself sneezing or having blocked nose on a regular basis, please see your doctor to check if you may have allergic rhinitis. They may also share the same triggers such as house dust mites or animal dander.

Asthma and Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis may contribute to further inflammation along the airways. If you find yourself sneezing or having blocked nose on a regular basis, please see your doctor to check if you may have allergic rhinitis. They may also share the same triggers such as house dust mites or animal dander.

Asthma and AllergiesRead more

Asthma and Allergies

Some asthmatics may find their asthma being triggered by certain substances (refer to triggers section) and it may be useful to have a skin prick test to check what these may be and avoid them.

Asthma and Allergies

Some asthmatics may find their asthma being triggered by certain substances (refer to triggers section) and it may be useful to have a skin prick test to check what these may be and avoid them.

Asthma in ChildrenRead more

Asthma in Children

Some patients may "grow out" of their asthma, but meanwhile, children will still require both maintenance and rescue inhalers like adults. However some medicines may not be safe in young children. It is recommended to check with your doctor.

Asthma in Children

Some patients may "grow out" of their asthma, but meanwhile, children will still require both maintenance and rescue inhalers like adults. However some medicines may not be safe in young children. It is recommended to check with your doctor.

Asthma and WorkRead more

Asthma and Work

Although most patients are able to work normally with asthma, a small proportion may find their symptoms worsen due to exposure to certain allergens at work (eg. paints, petrol, flour). If you find that that is the case, you may have to keep a diary of your symptoms in relation to your work, and be evaluated by an occupational physician.

Asthma and Work

Although most patients are able to work normally with asthma, a small proportion may find their symptoms worsen due to exposure to certain allergens at work (eg. paints, petrol, flour). If you find that that is the case, you may have to keep a diary of your symptoms in relation to your work, and be evaluated by an occupational physician.

Severe AsthmaRead more

Severe Asthma

Some patients, despite their best efforts, are more prone to severe asthma attacks that may require admission to hospital or the intensive care unit. However, do not be discouraged and continue to aim for good control of your asthma by listening to your doctor's advice and avoid allergens.

Severe Asthma

Some patients, despite their best efforts, are more prone to severe asthma attacks that may require admission to hospital or the intensive care unit. However, do not be discouraged and continue to aim for good control of your asthma by listening to your doctor's advice and avoid allergens.

Asthma and EczemaRead more

Asthma and Eczema

Children with very significant eczema from childhood have a much higher risk of asthma. Patients with asthma commonly have eczema. Be sure to also avoid the allergens that may trigger your eczema.

Asthma and Eczema

Children with very significant eczema from childhood have a much higher risk of asthma. Patients with asthma commonly have eczema. Be sure to also avoid the allergens that may trigger your eczema.

Asthma and ExerciseRead more

Asthma and Exercise

Although an uncommon form of asthma, known as Exercise-Induced asthma, may be worsened by exercise, most asthmatics are able to exercise like normal individuals. So be sure to keep active, and if you find that you feel breathless during exercise, take your rescue inhaler before you start your workout.

Asthma and Exercise

Although an uncommon form of asthma, known as Exercise-Induced asthma, may be worsened by exercise, most asthmatics are able to exercise like normal individuals. So be sure to keep active, and if you find that you feel breathless during exercise, take your rescue inhaler before you start your workout.

Asthma and PregnancyRead more

Asthma and Pregnancy

Generally the rule of "thirds" apply: one-third of pregnant women will find their asthma worsening, one-third remain the same, and one-third get better. Regardless, uncontrolled asthma is potentially harmful for the fetus, so be sure to continue your maintenance inhaler daily and seek medical attention if you have attacks. All maintenance inhalers and oral steroids are considered safe in pregnancy.

Asthma and Pregnancy

Generally the rule of "thirds" apply: one-third of pregnant women will find their asthma worsening, one-third remain the same, and one-third get better. Regardless, uncontrolled asthma is potentially harmful for the fetus, so be sure to continue your maintenance inhaler daily and seek medical attention if you have attacks. All maintenance inhalers and oral steroids are considered safe in pregnancy.

Travelling with AsthmaRead more

Travelling with Asthma

Be sure that you have sufficient maintenance and rescue inhalers, and always carry them on your carry-on hand luggage. If needed, get a letter from your doctor to allow you to do so.

Travelling with Asthma

Be sure that you have sufficient maintenance and rescue inhalers, and always carry them on your carry-on hand luggage. If needed, get a letter from your doctor to allow you to do so.

Asthma in the elderlyRead more

Asthma in the elderly

The existing asthma in the elderly may be worsened if they have previously been exposed to cigarette smoke for a long time. They may also be more prone to flu and chest infections. Hence,they should keep up-to-date with their vaccinations, and continue their inhalers regularly. Some patients may not be able to coordinate and require a plastic device called a spacer for their inhalers.

Asthma in the elderly

The existing asthma in the elderly may be worsened if they have previously been exposed to cigarette smoke for a long time. They may also be more prone to flu and chest infections. Hence,they should keep up-to-date with their vaccinations, and continue their inhalers regularly. Some patients may not be able to coordinate and require a plastic device called a spacer for their inhalers.

In the news

8 Common Diseases That Co-Exist With Asthma
18 Jul, 2018

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Resources

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